° empty

USTA Tennis: Dickens’ team wins state

NATCHEZ — Pat Dickens and the rest of her 3.5 USTA Southern Mississippi Super Seniors 70 team are looking to make the third time a charm.

They’re also looking to take advantage of one last opportunity.

Dickens’ team of six won the state championship United States Tennis Association Women’s 70s 3.5 flight and older state championship at the state tournament in Greenwood Oct. 5-7. It marked the third state title in a row for the team, catapulting them to the USTA sectionals Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in Columbus, Ga.

But the win is also their last competing in the Women 70s 3.5 flight, since USTA will introduce new flights, Dickens said.

“Next year it’ll be 65 until you die,” Dickens joked.

Dickens captains a team that includes Centreville resident Robbie Clark, Moss Point resident Betty Byars and Brookhaven residents Betsy Smith, Doris Panzica and Judy Phillips. The team had no substitutes, meaning they all had to put a lot of work in on the courts.

“Everyone on the team is with two teams (total), and one day all of us had four matches, which kept us out there about eight hours,” Dickens said. “When you’re playing eight hours a day, you’re lucky to be living.”

Not having any subs also meant Dickens’ team had to make sure they were in good playing condition.

“We had to do our best and try not to get hurt,” Dickens said.

When they travel to Columbus in November, Dickens said she expects to see plenty of stout competition, especially since many of the ladies would have played collegiate tennis.

“Robbie played for Southwest Community College, but the other people on the team took it up as adults,” Dickens said of her team. “While they’re good players, they just have to work a lot harder.”

But with all the work that goes into playing tennis, Dickens said she and her teammates enjoy the camaraderie they’ve developed over the years.

“We would never had been friends otherwise,” Dickens said. “We enjoy playing and enjoy the friendships. All of us feel very fortunate to have this opportunity, and because we’re such a close-knit group, it’s truly a team effort. There are no stars on this team.”

The sectionals matches will pair Dickens’ team with players from Georgia and the Carolinas, which Dickens said are some of the most competitive USTA players in the country.

“They’ve all been playing together a long time,” Dickens said. “When you have a good comfort level with your partner, and you know what they can do and what they will do, it makes a big difference.”